Oh. One more thing.
SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!!
Because this is a sequel, this excerpt reveals a CRITICAL part of The Gospel According to Sasha Renee. If you have not read the first book OR you are one of those who hate to have a good ending ruined, I encourage you to NOT READ any further.
Okay. I warned you. 🙂
I assure you, I’m nothing like my mother.
Some people may think that’s a harsh thing to say, especially if I’m implying that there is something wrong with being like my mother. I’m sure they are probably right. The problem is that they don’t have my life. They don’t understand what it’s like to live in the shadow of a mother that you’ve never known. It’s hard to appreciate something or someone who’s never been an active part of your life. A mother that, from what I’m told, was beautiful and captivating and charming and any of the other terms of endearment people use to describe Ms. Sasha Renee. All of the things I am not. No, people say I’m cute, if I could lose about 10lbs. I’ll even get intelligent, if I was just smart enough to get a real job and keep a man. Well, frankly, if being just cute and intelligent keeps me from being dead, then I’ll take it. Because, despite all of those wonderful attributes, isn’t that how my mother ended up? Dead? I’m not going to sugarcoat how I feel about that for the sake of decorum.
I’ll admit there’s a part of me that desperately wishes I felt another way. I do find myself wishing that “mommy” was synonymous with love and nurturing instead of ambivalence and abandonment. Unfortunately, that warm and fuzziness is trumped by my lack of a point of reference. I realize this might sound like an excuse for not trying, and maybe it is, but excuse or not, it’s my reality. A reality that I’m determined to turn into one very long “lemons to lemonade” moment.
If only I could get over some things.
You see, I am, at the very least, uncomfortable with myself. In my greatest state of self-uncertainty, I’m an imposter floating between a fear of failure and a fear of my success. I want things in my life that seem so unattainable that I am, in essence, swimming against a fierce current that prevents me from reaching my destination. The only thing left for me is faith. The little bit of it that I’ve been able to muster. Faith that where I end, Christ begins. I can thank my father for that. Langston Germaine. An awesome man whose faith has shown me that where the footsteps of my tumultuous life may end, God’s provision can begin, carrying me to the finish line located in the center of His will.
Nonetheless, I still have several issues to overcome or deal with immediately. Fear. Insecurity. Control. All stemming from the idea that I’m not good enough. You shouldn’t be surprised I know this about myself. Most people need a self-help or a pseudo-psychologist/talk show host to tell them what they already know. I just decided to skip the middle man. These challenges, as I like to call them, have been constants in all aspects of my life. Even in my relationships, where it would seem I would be the most comfortable, I tend to linger on the idea that I have to do “extra” things to garner the love and attention of people, even the men I may occasionally date. In fact, I come across beautiful men all the time and the reality is, I always end up believing they wouldn’t be attracted to me because of my big smile, unruly hair, the tendency of my weight to fluctuate, or any other superficial reason my mind can conjure.
Sheltered. That’s the only word I can think of when describing the life I’ve lived thus far. It’s like when my mother died, my father placed all of his energy into his work, eventually becoming Dean of the Business School at DePaul University and, of course, in raising me. Protecting me. At least as much as he could. He never remarried and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I loved it being just me and my dad against the world. But as I grew up, I began to wonder about the sadness I saw in his eyes. I’m observant that way. There was this silent longing that would shadow his eyes as though he wished he had someone to share his life with him. When I’d ask him about it, he’d brush me off by saying my mother was the one he’d loved, that no one compared to her, and it wouldn’t be fair to make any woman try. You see what I mean? My mother’s legacy has even been a hindrance to my dad. Neither of us can get away from Sasha if we tried. But I plan to. Just you wait and see.
Anyway, when it comes to any conversation I have with my dad about my mother, I always seem to say the wrong thing. I don’t think it’s intentional because I would never want to hurt my father in that way. On the other hand, I’ve had to live with his fragility my entire life and at times, I find myself testing him. The other day at lunch was no exception.
We’d decided to meet at Dahlia’s, this hot, new, eclectic restaurant on State Street. Periodically, dad and I will meet for lunch to update each other on what’s going on in our lives, just the way we used to when I was a little girl. Only now, we exchange pleasantries over sushi and white wine instead of peanut butter and jelly and milk. When dad walked into the room, I couldn’t help but notice how the women in the restaurant responded to him. At nearly sixty, Langston Germaine was an attractive man, as far as dads go. His salt-and-pepper hair was neatly cut into a short fade, and for a man his age, he was in great shape. In spite of living with a heartache that never went away, there was something just beneath the surface of him that seemed to speak to young girls and grandmas alike. It had always been like that. Little did they know that, like dad’s heart, his dating life had been shut down for a very long time, with no sign of a grand re-opening.
Since I could see him before he could see me, I raised my hand so he could find me in the sea of lunchtime lingerers attempting to be as sophisticated and chic as the place they were dining, but managing to only blend in to its predictably retro decor. Oblivious to the estrogen-driven stares, he made his way across the room in his trademark, long strides as our eyes met.
“Hey, sweetheart,” he said.
“Been waiting long?”
Dad smiled at my exaggeration.
“Oh, zip it, silly!”
“So, you have me at one of these shmancy, fancy places for lunch, huh?”
“Well, I’ve gotta get you to spend some money on your only daughter some way!”
“I think I heard something similar to that the last time I was here.”
I didn’t understand what he meant by that, but I soon found out.
“What! I didn’t know that you’d eaten here before. You should have told me!”
“Well, not exactly before.”
He paused and stared at me as though he was playing the staring game with a ghost. I suspect he was.
“I brought your mother here 30 years ago, only then it was the Weber Grill.”
Snapping out of his trance, he continued. “You look so much like her.”
Oh, oh. I tried so hard to keep my emotional composure, but I felt it coming. It was like the all-too familiar look of worn nostalgia mixed with a withering hopelessness that sent the words flying out of my mouth.
“Not only do I doubt that I do, I really wish that she’d stop interrupting our lunches.”
A contortionist could not have twisted his or her face in more directions than my father did right then. He winced as if he had been stabbed and, once again, my mouth had been the assailant. I tried to clean it up.
“I’m sorry, daddy. That was…”
“…uncalled for?” He finished.
“Insensitive? Stupid? Wrong?” He continued.
“Yes, dad, I’m all of those things.”
A heavy sigh escaped dad’s lips as he considered the implications of my sudden emotional martyrdom.
“No, you’re not. The words were, yes, but you’re not those things, Sasha…”
He tried to hit rewind just as quickly as I had a moment earlier.
“…I mean, CJ.”
It wasn’t the first time that had happened.
“Daddy, please don’t take this the wrong way. But it’s been 25 years since Sasha…” I noticed his posture became rigid at my addressing her by her first name, so I quickly corrected myself.
“…my mother died. I know how much you loved her, but don’t you think she’d want you to move on?”
“Knowing her, she probably would.”
“So, it’s just not that easy, CJ.”
“Nothing worth doing is easy. Isn’t that what you taught me?”
He smiled again.
“Using my words against your old man, huh?”
I knew he was trying to change the subject and I let him. There was already too much said for one day.
“Better your words than mine, right?”
We both broke out into a loud, nervous, overcompensating laughter. Case closed for now.
(c) 2009 Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts